"As is" reference - not a United Nations document
With the handshake between Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and President Mahmoud Abbas a few weeks ago in Sharm al-Sheikh, Israelis and Palestinians returned to dialogue. Now it is important that the steps agreed in Sharm al-Sheikh are implemented in full and in close consultation between the parties.
Above all, the new Palestinian Government is called upon to continue its efforts in the field of security with determination. Now that we have seen a marked improvement in the security situation in Israel over recent days and weeks, violence and terror – after the dreadful attack last Friday – must not gain the upper hand again. Those who planned this brutal terrorist attack must not succeed in shattering the hope of a peaceful future for Palestinians and Israelis. Taking firm action against terrorist groups must remain a major priority for the Palestinian Government.
At the same time, the living conditions of the Palestinian population must noticeably improve. Israel is called upon to help normalize daily life, for example by re-establishing freedom of movement.
The planned withdrawal from Gaza and the northern West Bank also has to be implemented with determination. Carried out in the context of the road map and in close consultation with the Palestinian side, it opens up major opportunities on the road to a two-state solution. The two-state solution remains the basis for lasting and just peace in the region. Therefore we view with concern the ongoing settlement policy in the West Bank.
In this context we welcome President Bush's announcement that he will make the Middle East peace process a priority in his second term in office. The European Union also wants to con-tribute to this process. In the coming months, greater use must again be made of the Middle East Quartet - which is meeting on the margins at principals level. I am pleased therefore that we will today decide to launch a steering committee on security. In so doing, we are imple-menting a Quartet decision.
This Meeting gives the Palestinian Authority support in three fields: governance, security, economic and social development. All three spheres play a central role in the development of a modern, democratic political system and a strong civil society. And that is what is decisive now for the Palestinian society also on the road to a two-state solution.
Let me stress that I have great respect for the impressive progress made by Palestinian society in all three fields, what is more in difficult circumstances. This was clearly shown by the presidential election in January. Palestinian society provided convincing proof here of their highly developed understanding of democracy. This triumph of democracy in the Palestinian territories sends a signal across the entire region.
In recent years, the Palestinian parliament has also developed impressively. It has become an institution that is increasingly assuming its role as a body exercising democratic control over the Government. The existence and scope for action of the democratic Opposition are also a sure indicator of the political maturity and democratic development of Palestinian society.
It is crucial that the Palestinians themselves take responsibility for implementing reforms. The reform steps must come from the Palestinian population and be supported by the majority. This is the only way for reforms to have a long-term impact.
Despite the progress to date, there is still a long way to go and many challenges to tackle. This is true of security above all, as I mentioned before. It is not just a matter of effectively com-bating the structures generating terror and violence against Israeli men, women and children. We are also talking about the Palestinian population who wants to live in security and free of crime. We are all now waiting for the Palestinian security services to be consolidated as announced some time ago. This is not least a question of enforcing the state monopoly on the use of force that is crucial to any functioning state.
Progress is also needed in the field of justice. President Abbas was right to make this one of his reform priorities. A functioning judiciary with the power to examine the actions of the authorities and police is decisive for democracy and the rule of law.
There is another area which is crucial. The Palestinian Authority is called upon to take determined steps in the field of basic services. Looking especially to medical care, schooling and social security, the functioning of public institutions must be improved.
The European Union and Germany will not leave you to perform your difficult tasks alone. Germany has been cooperating closely and intensively with the Palestinian territories for many years. Our commitment focuses on social infrastructure, promoting the Palestinian economy and building public administration and civil society. For many years, we have been earmarking between 40 and 50 million euro every year.
We are offering to continue this commitment in the future in close cooperation with the Palestinian Authority and to extend it if possible and needed. A delegation from Germany will travel to Ramallah in the next few days and discuss options with your Government.
Coordination between the many international donors is decisive. With the Task Force on Palestinian Reform and the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee we have reliable instruments which we can use and further develop. In particular, the plan to link these mechanisms to the Quartet is a step in the right direction.
We should also consider appointing someone to coordinate reforms in the economic and civil-society field on behalf of the Quartet. The European Union could make a central contribution with its many years of experience.
A difficult task lies before you (President Abbas),. Together with the new Government, you bear responsibility for Palestinian state-building. As you meet this challenge, the inter-national community as well as my country will continue to do all we can to support you.